The Epic of Thay Taruu 1 Picture

This is where it all began: two characters talking about something very-important that I don’t know about yet. I figure that starting a story semi-In Medias Res would be a great way to keep myself (and thus my audience) interested in the story.

From the very beginning I’ve been trying to stay away from too much exposition - but you’ll see in the next few pages how hard that is.
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And yes, I know the scan-quality and lettering of this page are less-than-perfect. That's one of the things I want to work on in this comic. Please, please, please give me some time to figure out the best way to present this comic.

THE EPIC OF THAY-TARUU

“There was a time when our kind did not stand united, when we were hunted and slaughtered like animals by the Cantooaixzioo. This is the story of how we became the Xzeejee, and how we defeated the demons who haunted us…”

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This comic is an experiment, first and foremost. Keep this in mind as you are reading it. The experiment was four-fold:
1) to write a complete story on-the-fly and keep it compelling and continuous within itself
2) to teach myself a personal “style” of graphic-story-telling to utilize in subsequent projects
3) to learn how to best utilize traditional media like colored pencils, watercolor, and micron pens
4) to tell a story that is non-human but not so entirely alien that human readers couldn’t become involved with the story.

I believe to best explain myself I should start with the story behind the story - the tale of how this “epic” came to be.

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY:
If we were to start at the very beginning then we would start more than a decade ago when I was just a wee little ankle-biter with a dream to make her own world. I made up a people and called them “Xzeejee”, and started piddling around with their world in my head.

The story of their mental evolution in my mind is not where we are focused, so let’s fast-forward to last summer.

I am a story-teller: I am constantly compelled by the narrative of the world around me. I am fascinated by ancient myths and legends of all kinds, and I have studied such tomes as Bullfinch’s Mythology, along with various interpretations of the myths by such individuals as Joseph Campbell.

But I am also an artist, and as an artist I am my own worst critic.

As a story-teller I am filled with stories to tell - but as an artist I constantly find that I cannot tell the stories I want without constantly stopping myself at every corner because “it just isn’t right.”

So last summer I came up with a plan. I said to myself, “Self, you have had over a decade to come up with the Xzeejee world. They have all sorts of legends and stories waiting for you to tap into - stories that you are just emotionally distant from that if you end up messing up some details you won’t care nearly as much.” I was working a dead-end job at a call center where I could draw anything I wished as long as I didn’t leave a mess in my cubicle so one night on a whim I brought my ruler, my micron pens, my colored pencils, and my imagination.

THAT FATEFUL NIGHT:

That night I arrived at work early and drew a margin-box in my sketchbook. I divided it up into smaller boxes and rectangles that looked pleasing, and just started doodling. For the first page I had no set story in my mind, only an ideal of what artistic compositions would compel someone to keep reading. I drew two characters talking about something obviously important.

Then I drew the next page, and the next page, and the next page….

Before I knew it, I had begun to formulate a story in my mind without any prompting. It was like I was an archeologist uncovering an ancient manuscript perfectly preserved, and my only job was to use the Rosetta Stone of my mind to untangle it.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT:

The two characters had no names - one was male, one was female, but that’s about all I knew. Before I went on to ink these first four pages (and thus cement them in the annals of history) I said to myself, “Self, why should you have to come up with completely original characters? The great story-tellers of our ancestors didn’t - they relied completely on character-archetypes that could be perfectly comfortable in one story or the next. Why don’t you do that?”

This got me thinking about what character archetypes I would like to display. Rama and Hanuman? Robin Hood and Little John? Christ and the Apostles? There were so many choices - and even worse, I still didn’t have a solid story!

Then it hit me - for hundreds of generations we have used character archetypes of Tarot Cards to tell the individual stories of our lives. Indeed, each card is a story in and of itself - so if I were to tell a story using all 72 cards I could have a chance to tell over 5,000 stories!

I looked at the two characters and picked two cards to represent their “character archetypes”. My favorite deck calls “Wands” Rods - and the female character looked like the Page of Rods to me, so I called her Rod. Then I looked at the male character - dark, gruff, and loyal, and I decided that he would be the Knight of Pentacles so I named him Pent.

THE CARDS WILL TELL:

I let Pent and Rod begin to tell their own story. I sat down with them in my head and asked them what was going on, what technology did their people have, what were the stories their parents told them? Then I began to think about all the history of the Xzeejees I had made up: which era of history would prove the most narratively fruitful?

I came up with a basic story - so basic that if I changed some words around and moved a few events it would seem like many of the stories we have told ourselves since we have been human. A coming darkness, a loss of nobility and honor, and a group of heroes who are imperfect beings trying to save the world around them and bring in a New Golden Age.

But it was still just a skeleton of a story - there were no climaxes, no scenes, indeed there weren’t any secondary characters.

So after I had the backbone of the story I sat down with my Tarot deck and used the cards to draft out a very basic plot. The cards that I pulled reinforced the ideas I already had, and helped me develop three-dimensional characters that actually had an emotional investment in the world around them

NOW WE ARE HERE:

I still wasn’t sure if I could finish the story. I am an endless tinker-er: I often-times set standards for myself that are so high that I couldn’t possibly reach them. So I began to set realistic goals for myself, I began to give myself a little lee-way, and told myself, “Self, you don’t have to write the perfect story - all you have to do is tell this story eloquently.”

But as the weeks and months passed, as I began to flesh this story out and become attached to the characters I found that my friends around me were getting interested in the story, too. This wasn’t just a “Xzeejee story” this was a story that was compelling even to people who didn’t have to like it.

And that was just what I wanted.

ALL THE REST OF THE WORDS:

So I still feel that are some things that need to be said. The first thing I would like to say is this: “I don’t know where it’s going, either.” That’s part of the whole experiment: instead of scripting every little thing out in binders, notebooks, and sketchbooks (as I am normally wont to do) I have been working completely on the fly. I will continue to do so. If I get “stuck” in the story I will use my Tarot cards to figure out what to do next. Of course I still write things down, but I am trying to let this story grow as organically as possible - which means that sometimes I might end up running down a rabbit-trail or two while I try to figure out where the meat of the story lies.

The next thing I feel needs to be mentioned is that this is not only an experiment in story-telling, but also in my artistic style as well. For the first 9 pages I colored it with colored pencil, but as I work I will probably try new media, new ways of coloring (or not), and new ways of working out the lay-out. As an experiment it is subject to change at any moment without notice - and it also has the prerogative to go back to any style that worked well whenever it needs to. Sometimes things will work fantastically with an experiment - other times things blow up in your face. That is the nature of the beast I am working with and that you are reading.

I also feel that I should mention that this story is meant to have the feeling of an ancient tale: I am drawing inspiration from the Ramayana, from the Arthurian legends, from Homer, from Chaucer - you name it and I’m inspired by it.

But more than being a legend, it is supposed to be a legend from another world. While we may feel comfortable in the environment for it being earth-like the cultures and places are supposed to feel fantastic and alien.

Finally, I would like to extend my personal thanks and feelings of gratitude to anyone who stops to read for even a page. Not all experiments turn out perfect in the end - but my hope with this comic is that each page will be better than the last, so that by the end someone who has watched from the beginning can see the evolution and growth of something fantastic.
More mythology stuff
Mythology - Split Comp
The Epic of Thay Taruu 1
Kirin character sheet
Snakes in her hair